As my 13 and 8 year olds headed back to school, my daughter and I embarked on a new adventure of home education.

I think both of us felt a little naughty as she stayed in bed later than usual, dressed in casual clothes and was able to have real input into what she wanted to do that day.

We started with a walk to the village as I needed to get some shopping and to register with the GP.

“Are you looking forward to getting back to school?” asked the man who served us in the Co-op. “I’m not going back” she mumbled and I explained we were home schooling her. Blank look and no further questions asked.

When we were out I certainly felt like everybody was staring at us as if we were doing something wrong but then I am prone to see adverse judgment in people’s eyes. We had a picnic and chatted merrily.

On returning home, we did loads. She wrote a story showing great imagination and good spelling. I set up her some tests on arithmetic which she flew through in minutes. She is clearly going to need bigger challenges in maths.

We watched a video of a German story even though German is new to both of us. We looked at the words and then we watched the story in English.

We played a time capsule game looking at objects from World War 2 and listening to stories of evacuation.

In an attempt to prove to her father that I will not just focus on arts topics, we watched a video on augmented reality. Me showing an interest in anything to do with physics is rare but I was actually quite fascinated by this subject.

Learning is lovely but this day was magical. It took me right back to the days when I had my first son and relished motherhood so very much. Spending time talking, laughing, discussing and snuggling up – lots to recommend this way of life.

Oh and just to prove we can be a little offbeat too, we went into the front garden and made structures with bamboo sticks and planted sunflowers too.

The next day she was very tired. Home educators and my teacher brother tell me that I don’t need to do as many hours as they do at school as one-to-one teaching is so much more intensive.

What I love about home education

Quality time together without the tight deadlines of school

Learning together – a joyous experience

Closeness – physically and emotionally

What I worry about

It feels odd to do less than a full school day – I don’t want to let my daughter down by not doing enough teaching with her

Knowing the right balance between implementing the stuff they teach in schools and also being a little bit more creative

I am concerned that she does not love writing things down that much and I don’t want to give in to this. So I might have to implement discipline but I don’t want to turn her off learning.

That feeling of being a naughty girl as if we are both skiving off school and will get caught at any given moment.

Having said all that, I am seriously considering taking my 8 year old out of school too. My daughter is keen saying it will be good to have someone for company whilst I am doing other things. My son is also eager although I have to unpick the reasons why with him before we make a final decision.

So far so good methinks.

I would be grateful for comments, tips, advice and contacts as our journey moves into its second week.

Why have I chosen unsure as my word of the week?

unsure

1. I have embarked upon the home education journey with my daughter. I am reaching out to find out the best way to do this. We have learned a lot already. I remain unsure on when to take a break and when to go for it with gusto. I am learning as I go along and I am OK with that but the word unsure applies as we make our first tentative steps.

2. I let my youngest son walk to school alone this week. He seemed keen but then a little nervous too. We have talked this through and I will walk him tomorrow – he is keen to walk the last bit himself so we will work out what is the best plan as we go along.

3. My teenage son had a last minute panic before starting school again about catching the bus. His Dad is giving him a lift when he can and at other times my son is managing the bus fine after those feelings of uncertainty earlier in the week.

4. I am unsure about things after the disappointment of my husband losing his job so soon after making the big move South. I don’t have the faith in him as breadwinner that I once had and I need to remember neither of the job losses were his fault. I wonder if we should head back to the less expensive North but then we love it down here and we can head up to London or down to the South coast on a whim. I sense we will stay but it does not feel like home quite yet.

Although I am unsure, I think things are fundamentally OK. A baby that learns to walk falls over sometimes. The key is to keep getting back up again and then soon it will be climbing, jumping and hopping too.

Our family will too.

The Reading Residence

I am blogging about the day mum died.

We were in the Highlands of Scotland on holiday.

I had seen my Mum as usual the weekend before we left. She has insisted I go on the holiday. I told her I would come back to see her on 3rd September. She was adamant that I must not come back until the 4th.

As the car started up, I looked through at her bedroom. She held her hand up. I was keen to stare at it and to remember every line.

I went home and into town. I kept finding myself stopping. I could not focus. I could not function.

A spoke to my husband and asked him to visit my Mum. She had not seen him for months as she did not want the children to see her getting worse so I would visit her and he would stay at home with our children.

He went and stayed the night. He told her he had come to see her. She made us both smile with her response. “When I saw you, I thought there was something up”

We went to Scotland and as I left home I had the strangest feeling I would come back after Mum had died.

The holiday was odd. We had fun as a family but were attached to our mobiles for news from my Dad.

One night, we went into the garden of our holiday cottage and someone was playing an accordion at the neighbouring cottage. I suddenly found my husband in tears. I think I had said something like “Mum would love that”

I wanted to go to Cromarty. Mum had always listened to the shipping forecasts and I loved the names.

One morning, my husband said we could go to Cromarty that day. I barked at him. He did not understand why. By now I had decided in my own mind that Mum would die the day we went to Cromarty.

A couple of days later we made the visit to Cromarty. I remember sitting and watching dolphins in the sea that day. coming to terms.

I got a text from my brother late that night “Phone Dad – urgent”

In that moment, you think maybe if you don’t call, it won’t be true.

“You know what it will be” I told my husband.

I made the call. A Marie Curie nurse answered calling me Catherine. Things must be serious. She put my Dad on who said “Your Mum passed away at 10 to eleven and it was peaceful”

Ten to eleven – so many nights she would have left a variety of clubs at that time with Dad either with her or waiting at our front door anxiously.

Closing time!

I lit a candle because that is what you do when you are brought up a Catholic.

My oldest brother phoned to see if I was OK.

My two older children were in bed.

My youngest had fallen asleep on the sofa.

We were obviously distressed. At which point my son burst out laughing in his sleep, a real chuckle. A message from mum that life and laughter should go on.

I slept alone that night and sobbed most of the night. I got up early, cleaned the house and we made our way back to Yorkshire.

I arrived on exactly the day when my Mum had told me to return and my Mum was dead. Stage-managing things until the very end.

R.I.P. Mum – I forgot your anniversary this year until late at night. I am sure you would have had loads to say about that. Love you.

Diary of an imperfect mum

What are my reasons for cheerfulness this week?

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1. We went to see the BoxTrolls film in Leicester Square Odeon on Saturday. The whole family loved it so it comes highly recommended for 8 to 57 year olds! Very cute, funny and with a great message too. Living so much closer to London is fantastic on days like this. We were lying on a beach at Hayling Island on the South coast by teatime with the children enjoying a good paddling session.

2. I am thankful for online support when times get tense. I am not going to name names for fear of missing somebody out but I do like to feel I have that backing even if at such a distance.

3. My teenager headed back to school and after a little wobble the night before got quite comical about the whole thing. He seems happy to be back and excited about his options particularly business studies.

4. My other son starts back at school today. I was impressed how he got straight back into the morning routine and also how he said without any prompting that he wants to try harder with his Literacy work this year.

5. My daughter and I are embarking on a home education journey. This feels odd and scary at the minute. I have cleared a unit in the lounge so keep her books and work on. I have identified online networks. I have reassured my husband that we will not just be doing craft all day. He is nervous too and I need to understand that.

6. 5 people linked up their stories on Striking Mums during the week. More on that later.

7. Last night, I realised it was the 5th anniversary of my Mum’s death. I feel a little bad for not remembering sooner. However, I guess it does show that time eases things a bit although she still leaves a very big hole in this family as she was such a full-on character.

me and mum

I have set up an online support groups for mums to help us all make positive changes in our lives. It is time to seize the day, take baby steps if that is what we can manage and change our lives.

So what about me? What do I need to change?

1. We have had a bumpy ride over the last 16 months with my husband losing two jobs, a long period of unemployment and a big relocation from North to South. My son is missing his friends back home. My daughter did not settle in her new school. I think my husband’s ego has been very damaged by recent events too. As a family, we are feeling a bit battered and bruised I think. I know people have much bigger problems to confront but this is my space to say how I am feeling. I would really welcome a period where we don’t get hit by major hassles. I need to work on my marriage and my parenting but I also need to build myself back up again in order to do these things.

2. I don’t get out enough during the week which results in me being very isolated. This is going to change because once my son goes back to school, I am going to be out and about with my little girl. I could do with somebody to tweet me every day to ask if I have gone out of the door yet. It always makes me feel so much better.

3. I have a poor self-image. Weight has a lot to do with this as over the years I have come to terms with mad hair and vaguely weird looks. I have given up booze and I am cutting out red meat. I am going to eat more healthily and take more exercise. Again, I think having the company of my daughter will help with this.

4. I am going to spend less time watching the television. I think it can suck your energy away and is too easy to use as stimulation when you are stuck in the house.

Having said all this, I have made huge strides in recent years and I think have just got a bit off track after losing my Dad, the redundancies and the house move. I am angry at myself for that but maybe I need to ease up on myself and allow me to be human too.

So yes, dear reader, I need Striking Mums too and look forward to reporting back as to how I get on.

As I look back on this post, I am heartened to see that although the changes are major, there are very few of them to sort out. The future is bright!